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Apple to score industry first with dual 1394b, USB 2 support

'Apollo' gigahertz G4 lined up in case G5 not ready in time

Exclusive Apple's next Power Macs, due to be announced early next year at Macworld Expo San Francisco, will "definitely" support the USB 2.0 and 1394b connectivity specifications and the DDR SDRAM memory standard, company deep throats have told The Register.

With USB 2.0 not supported by Windows XP, providing the second-generation versions of both USB and FireWire would allow Apple to claim it's the first major PC vendor to do. And, as long-time Apple watchers know, there's little CEO Steve Jobs likes more than announcing that Apple's rolling out new technology ahead of everyone else.

USB 2.0 extends the bus' data throughput to 480Mbps from version 1.1's 12Mbps. IEEE 1394b likewise extends the bus' current speed, from 400Mbps to 800Mbps with room to drive data at up to 3.2Gbps over copper cabling. Silicon that supports USB 2.0 is already shipping; 1394b silicon from the likes of Texas Instruments, Agere, Panasonic and NEC is expected to ship in volume in Q4 - plenty of time to get it into new professional Macs early next year.

Support for DDR SDRAM is also planned, but as yet no decision has been made which version of the spec. is to be supported, we understand. Presumably the choice is between DDR266 and DDR333. The former effectively operates at 266MHz over a 133MHz bus like the one used in Apple's current Power Mac G4s for. PC2100 memory modules, which are based upon DDR266 chips, have a bandwidth of 2.1GBps. DDR333 operates over a 167MHz system bus for a effective clock speed of 333MHz - its PC2700 DIMMs can move data at 2.7GBps - but is only now going into production, which may be too soon for new Macs in January, we reckon.

The new machines are also being designed to be based on the next-generation PowerPC 8500 processor, aka G5, according to our sources. That, they say, is what Apple is shooting for, but has the latest revision of the G4, codenamed Apollo, on stand-by in case the G5 production ramp doesn't go as smoothly as planned.

Earlier this week, we revealed that Motorola has finished the initial revision of the G5 and is gearing up to ship the chip at between 800MHz and 1.6GHz (lower speeds for the embedded market, higher speeds for desktop applications - ie. Power Macs).

At least one Motorola executive has apparently poo-poo'd our report, which we understand hasn't gone down too well with Apple's own chip development staffers, who have contributed heavily to the design and implementation of the G5.

Apollo, meanwhile, will clock at 1.0, 1.13 and 1.26GHz, we're told, but is aimed primarily at mobile applications. Still, Apple will use it in desktops if it has to. ®

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